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An old friend had a son that lived in a duplex with his family. The other side of the duplex had another family and the wall the separated them had a fireplace on either side. The son was diligent about getting his fireplace and chimney cleaned and inspected each year for the safety of his family and just assumed that everyone was as concerned about a chimney fire as he was since he had lived in areas that used fireplaces for heat all of his life. However, on one cold January evening, he found out that everyone does not think like he does.

He was lucky. The entire family including the dog made it out safely. Their belongings did not. But what disturbed him the most was that the other family “thought” they had had a fire the night before but couldn’t confirm it so they just ignored it. What they should have done was to call a certified chimney company to inspect to see if they might have actually had a contained chimney fire, which was confirmed by firefighters the following week.

Here is what the chimney technician would have looked for:

  • Puffed Creosote – lightweight, fragile ashes are usually present after a fire.
  • Scorched Areas –the high heat produces clean patches that may appear in the flue.
  • Cracked Flue Tiles – fires can burn at over 2000 degrees F. and that can cause thermal shock, which can crack the flue.
  • Metal Components Warped – dampers or chimney caps may be discolored or damaged.
  • Large Creosote Pieces – expanded creosote may appear on the roof, gutter or yard near the chimney.

As promised here are the three things to do to prevent chimney fires:

  • Schedule yearly inspections with a professional certified chimney contractor.
  • Make sure they provide a video camera inspection of the entire chimney structure top to bottom.
  • Consider installing a stainless steel chimney liner.

Remember, it is not uncommon for occupants to be unaware that a fire has even occurred. If you even think it may be happening at your house, duplex, condo or apartment it is imperative that you contact your local fire department or chimney company to come out as quickly as possible and inspect the chimney for signs of a fire. Chimney sweeps find numerous cases of undetected fires every year so the most important thing is to make sure your fireplace and chimneys are getting that yearly inspection. It just might save more lives than you might think.